The High Point Rockers announced on Tuesday, Feb. 11 that the team had completed assembling the coaching staff for the 2020 season and it would be the exact same one that led the team to its first-year success in 2019. According to Rocker’s officials, Manager Jamie Keefe will be joined for a second season by Pitching Coach Frank Viola, Bench Coach and Director of Player Procurement Billy Horn, Bullpen Coach Albert Gonzalez and Assistant Coach, Bubber Birdsong.
A press release announcing the coaching lineup stated that one big reason management is keeping that staff together is that the group took the Rockers to the postseason in 2019 – which made the Rockers the first expansion team in Atlantic League history to reach the playoffs in a team’s inaugural year.
Keefe said the coaching staff was a key factor behind that achievement.
“Our staff was a huge part of the success we enjoyed in 2019,” Keefe stated in the press release. “Every guy had a key role that they excelled in, which only made us better on the field. When you have guys like Frank, Billy, Albert, Bubber, and now Tyler Ladendorf, it makes your life as a manager easy.”
He added that they are all great human beings and are very enjoyable to work with each day.
Viola – who as a player was the 1987 World Series MVP and 1988 Cy Young Award winner in the big leagues – is returning to the Rockers after guiding a 2019 pitching staff that led the Atlantic League in Earned Run Average (3.74) and Walks/Hits Per Inning (1.25), and ranked third in strikeouts (1,043).
Under his direction in the team’s inaugural season in 2019, pitchers Ashur Tolliver, Brian Clark, and Sam Runion were all named to the 2019 Liberty Division All-Star team, and other pitchers had their contracts purchased by the big leagues in midseason.
Viola also made positive statements about this year in the team’s Tuesday announcement.
“I am excited to be back for year two,” Viola said. “Our inaugural season brought us a playoff spot and this year we’re hoping to step forward and get to the championship.”
A key member of the staff, Billy Horn, will not only assist with gameplay decisions as the bench coach – his role as director of player procurement is also considered vital.
According to Rocker’s officials, “His abilities as a talent evaluator ensures that High Point is able to put the highest quality team on the field every night. Horn also runs Meet-A-Prospect, an organization that runs multiple camps and tryouts across the country to help players connect, and sign, with professional teams.”
Also, the Rockers announced that the team mascot “Hype -The Rocking Horse”– who was selected as Mascot of the Year by the Atlantic League – will be returning for the 2020 season.
The press release didn’t mention the return of the singer who butchered the “Star Spangled Banner” so bad that the video went viral.
The Rockers began playing ball in High Point on May 2, 2019 in BB&T Point, the brand new $36-million downtown stadium that won the Atlantic League’s award for “2019 Ballpark of the Year.”